For many years now I have been growing my own organic tomatoes! When I first started growing tomatoes I quickly noticed that there were a ton of varieties and that some varieties did better than others.
I seemed to have better luck with certain varieties like bush tomatoes and Roma tomatoes but had no luck with others that were heirloom tomatoes, Beefmaster or Brandywine varieties. What was I doing wrong? Why was it that I couldn’t get these varieties to grow and produce a lot of tomatoes?
So I began to research and found out a ton of information and began making some changes! Over the next few years I implemented these changes and have had tremendous success ever since! Here it what you need to know!
Different Tomato Varieties
There are two different types of tomatoes plants, determinate tomatoes and indeterminate tomatoes. Both variety of plants are very different and it is important to know which kind you have so you can properly care for your tomato plants.
Determinate Tomatoes – determinate tomatoes are tomatoes that do not require staking or pruning and do not require the removal of “suckers”(explained below). These tomatoes are usually bush varieties and only grow about 3-4 feet and then produce their fruit. Plants blossom and develop at the same time over a 4-6 week period of time.
Indeterminate Tomatoes – indeterminate tomatoes are tomatoes that grow throughout the season and usually need to be staked up and require weekly pruning or the removal of suckers (explained below). They will continue to grow and produce until a frost comes.
To find out which kind you have in your garden, here is a list from The Henrys’ Plant Farm:
So as I stated above, my determinate tomatoes were doing great and did not require the removal of suckers. So the problem I was having was with indeterminate tomatoes. These plants would grow nice and tall but very few tomatoes were being produced. After doing some research I realized that I was not removing the suckers on my plants. Suckers?? Yes, suckers. Let me explain.
Suckers are little plants that grow off of the main stems or leaders. They form at the “Y” of two branches like pictured below. When these suckers form they strip the main plant of its nutrients and the central plant will not have the energy to produce a lot of tomatoes. So in an indeterminate variety, it is imperative to remove these suckers so that the main plant has the energy to produce a ton of tomatoes!
Here is how you remove suckers from your indeterminate tomato plants. You want to wait until your suckers are at least 2-3 inches in length. Look at the photo below. At the “Y” you can see a sucker that is about 3 inches long. It is important to note that you want to remove suckers that are below a flower cluster as shown in the picture. Do not remove suckers above the flower clusters. This is new growth and will produce more tomatoes, so only remove the suckers that are below flower clusters.
Now with your fingers, follow the sucker to the base of the plant.
Snap off the sucker at the base and discard. By removing the sucker off of the main plant you are allowing the central plant to have more energy to produce more blossoms or tomatoes and you will dramatically improve your production of tomatoes.
You will need to remove your suckers on your indeterminate plant every 7-10 days. Make sure the leaves on your tomato plants aren’t wet when removing suckers so that you aren’t spreading diseases. You can remove suckers any time of the day, it will not harm the plant. Again, I want to stress, only remove suckers on indeterminate varieties and not on determinate varieties. Here is the Tomato Variety List, once again from The Henrys’ Plant Farm.
I hope this information is useful to you and you are able to have a ton of delicious tomatoes this year in your garden! Happy Gardening Everyone!
This is a great tip! My late Dad shared it with me when I was a little girl, and he always managed to grow wonderful tomato crops. In fact, he and my Grandpa used to have a fun competition for who could get the first ripe tomato of the season (and it had to be seen on the plant!). Thank you for sharing this post, as removing the suckers really does make a huge difference to a good tomato crop.
This is an awesome , Thank you for sharing i will try this with my tomatoes this year.
Very good article on tomatoes. Thank you so much from Georgia!
I can see my brown thumbs turning GREEN just from reading your blog! THANK YOU so much! I pretty much gave up on trying to start a garden… But now, I can’t wait to get out there again! But first… weeding… ugh lol
ROBERT A. says
Yes!! Excellent enlightening info about those suckers. I obviously have an indeterminate that is living an AMAZINGLY long life (10 months old now). We had a very mild fall and winter here in So. Calif so that’s got to be why. And getting those suckers off the main plant was absolutely a key assisting factor. It was planted in August 2013. It produced tomatoes September and October, but then stopped and just stayed green only until February when I was surprised to find 4 tomatoes hidden inside the foliage (like it was protecting them). Since then it has continued to stay green and sporadically branch out and produce more tomatoes. But I have no idea what kind of tomato plant it is since it came up on its own out of some free compost a guy in a neighboring city was giving way. And what’s unique is that it has cherry tomatoes, plum-looking tomatoes, salad size tomatoes, and what looks like an heirloom tomato all randomly popping up all over this plant. It’s my box of chocolates tomato plant…you never know what you’re gonna get. LOL August will be its 1-year anniversary if I make it that far… a true revelation for me of what’s possible with indeterminate-type tomatoes.
Anders Svensson says
All the given tips are very useful for me. Because first time i am going to grow the tomatoes crop in my backyard. So i would like to prepare myself for these thing. Thank you so much for sharing great post.
Anders Svensson says
Hey Halle. Execellent tips and instructions you have given. Actually my father shared it with me, when i was a little boy, he had always grown execellent tomato crops. Thank you so much for given execellent tips.
Mary gibbens says
Thanks for the great info
Mohamed Borhami says
I would like to thank you for such info. , this is my 1st trail to plant tomato in my small balcony , I got the seeds from original tomato bought from grocery . I started seedlings on last Jan and now I have about 10 tomato trees reaches about 40 cm , green, one of them begins to flower . I think it needs now to transfer it to a larger pot , i used compost with bet mos soil . can you advice before i do.
Halle Cottis says
Yep it is ready to be potted into a larger pot or into the ground.
This is a great article. It could be valuable to mention that if you do not pinch It Off while it is Young (4″) to leave it be because then you risk the chance up doing more damage to the plant. I know this through experience. There’s also another reason to pinch the indeterminate tomatoes. When you don’t pinch, the branches that form make your plant wider and more difficult to keep your tomato plants from spreading out horizontally. It can make it too thick for the tomatoes to get the proper sun and airflow. Again I’m no expert this is just from my experience of growing tomatoes for 5 years.
What about Merced tomato plants? It wasn’t on the list.